Young Star Chef initiative, Midland Hotel, Manchester

The award-winning French restaurant at Manchester's legendary Midland Hotel let its talented young chefs take centre stage <br/>PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS <br/>WORDS BY RAY KING

Too many cooks, so the old saying goes, spoil the broth. But too few good chefs can seriously compromise the culinary status of a great city, crucial to the success of the key tourism industry.

So step forward Gareth Packham, Lee Walton and Jamie Brittain, all just 22 years old, who demonstrated with skill and panache that they have what it takes in the kitchen of one of the region’s most renowned restaurants, the French at the Midland Hotel, Manchester.

The trio, with 15 years experience at the Midland between them despite their tender years, took over the kitchen and planned, prepared and served a splendid Young Star Chef Dinner in the glamorous French Restaurant – named City Restaurant of the Year 2009-10 in Life Magazines’ prestigious Food and Wine Awards – for more than fifty appreciative guests.

The Young Star Chef scheme is an ongoing skills initiative to recognise the talents of young chefs, supported by Visit Manchester in partnership with Springboard, the charity that seeks to raise the profile of careers in the hospitality industry.

Paul Bayliss, resident manager of the Midland, said: ‘Both Gareth and Lee started on the same day and Jamie joined three years later. All three young chefs have helped to maintain the French’s position as one of the best restaurants in Manchester and justified their position in the team. Not content with this level of consistency the young and ambitious brigade, headed by Paul Beckley, are on a mission to help the restaurant regain its three AA Rosettes and beyond.’

After reception drinks sponsored by Gerrard Seel Wine Merchants Ltd and deliciously playful fish and chip canap�s in the hotel’s striking Octagon Bar, guests took their seats in the opulent French for Gareth, Lee and Jamie’s expertly crafted menu. We began with hors d’oeuvres of delectably crisp cubes of pork belly before the starter proper, salmon tartar with beetroot and horseradish followed by a main course of Reg’s flavourful Goosnargh chicken with gnocchi, mushrooms and salsify. To finish they served apple strudel with lovely wholegrain mustard ice cream.

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Paul Simpson, managing director of Visit Manchester, the tourist board for Greater Manchester, said:  ‘Visitors to the city rightly expect a great dining experience and our Young Star Chef initiative ensures that local chefs take pride in their work from the very beginning of their careers.’  

The threesome were presented with a certificate, a Villeroy and Boch commemorative plate and chef whites.

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